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Teaser, summary, work performed and final results

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Lifebrain (Healthy minds from 0-100 years: Optimising the use of European brain imaging cohorts)


A healthy brain is essential to enjoy a healthy and productive human life. Environmental, social, occupational, and lifestyle factors continuously influence brain health across the lifespan. The Lifebrain project aims to identify risk and protective factors and understand how...


A healthy brain is essential to enjoy a healthy and productive human life. Environmental, social, occupational, and lifestyle factors continuously influence brain health across the lifespan. The Lifebrain project aims to identify risk and protective factors and understand how these influence brain, cognitive and mental health at different stages of life. Increased knowledge about how risk and protective factors influence brain health will greatly improve our ability to prevent mental diseases and neurodegenerative disorders in Europe and worldwide.
Lifebrain integrates data from 5300 European research participants collected in 11 European brain-imaging studies in 7 countries spanning ages 4 to 90. Lifebrain will also collect additional data online and biological samples from some participants in the project.
We invite the public to influence the research process by actively engaging patient organizations, policy makers, and clinical and research centers.
The project will provide the evidence base for prevention and intervention, and improving clinical practice and public health policies for brain, cognitive and mental health.

Work performed

Lifebrain is characterized by a focused, smooth and productive collaboration across partners. Lifebrain has made a great progress in the first project period and delivered on all project milestones.

A system has been developed to start data-sharing promptly. The infrastructure for secure data storage and management is being set-up on a dedicated Lifebrain project space at the sensitive research data system of the University of Oslo. Site-specific shares have been established and key personnel have been granted access. Detailed folder structures and extended user groups will be set up in the coming months.
Data categorization as part of the data harmonisation task has been fulfilled for all Lifebrain studies and time points at the 7 data collection sites. Variables of interest were identified, site-specific codebooks were established, guidelines and templates has been designed for the setup of data tables that form the basis for the Lifebrain database. All data sites are in the progress of generating Lifebrain data tables and the first sites already uploaded Lifebrain data tables to the central data system. Procedures and documents for project specific in-depth data integration and harmonization have been put in place.

Online data enrichment is in process in order to maximize data comparability across Lifebrain sites. An estimated number of 4.700 participants will take part in the enrichment. The translations of questionnaires, tasks and instructions are finalized at the enrichment sites and local ethics and data-sharing approvals are in place. Projected timelines of data collection and anticipated number of participants were estimated for all of the participating sites, with most data-collection taking place by the end of 2018.

As part of the data enrichment process, Dried Blood Spots (DBS) home kits have been developed and delivered to the partners to measure specific biomarkers. The first batch of registered Lifebrain DBS samples have been sent to Vitas for analysis. Results for hsCRP, fatty acids and total cholesterol have been reported. Additional analyses are ongoing and will be reported continuously.
Furthermore, University of Lubeck (UzL) initiated and distributed buccal swabs for genetic analysis. UzL has further reached out to all relevant Lifebrain collaborators with respect to the existence, availability and accessibility of GWAS (genome-wide association study) data for the analyses envisioned in WP4. Approximately 7800 samples will be available for the GWAS efforts in Lifebrain. Of these approximately 2000-3000 will also be subjected to DNA methylation profiling for the purpose of EWAS-epigenome wide association study. For about 1,400 samples new GWAS data will be generated with Lifebrain funding.

To harmonise the analysis of the available brain imaging data within Lifebrain, a standardised imaging analysis stream has been developed based on a BIDS – Brain Imaging Data Structure. Partner sites are currently gathering imaging data in BIDS format in the central processing site. While waiting for this task to complete, already existing structural imaging measures are collected to perform preliminary analyses.

Novel longitudinal statistical tools have been developed to be able to exploit the potential of the large Lifebrain cohort. Among these a statistical framework to estimate reliability and to identify sources of measurement error in order to improve future study designs with respect to precision of measurement. An open-access manuscript describing this framework was published.

Ethical clearance is available for all sites regarding the existing data and online data enrichment but pending for the genetic materials.

We are organizing a number of stakeholder engagement activities, including workshops, public lectures, and a sub-study to collect information regarding the views and perceptions of healthy adults participating in brain research studies on brain health and personalized brain health prevention.

Final results

Integration, harmonisation and enrichment of major European neuroimaging studies of age differences and changes, allows us to establish an unparalleled database of fine-grained brain, cognitive and mental health measures of more than 5300 individuals. Linking demographic, behavioural, imaging, genetic and biological data, also to additional databases and biobanks, including birth registries, enables us to identify key risk and protective factors of brain, cognitive and mental health throughout the lifespan. Novel insights in brain, cognitive and mental health maintenance, and onset and course of brain, cognitive and mental disorders, paves the way to better prediction of resilience to and onset of brain disorders and decline of brain, cognitive and mental health.
The established data harmonisation and data storage and management strategies provide major conceptual, methodological and analytical contributions towards integrating existing study cohorts and their efficient exploitation.
Lifebrain will produce novel dried blood spot based methods for biomarker analysis that can be applied in future academic projects and exploited in various business models. Areas of application include personalized nutrition and medicine.
Lifebrain has already successfully contributed to the development of novel longitudinal statistical methods that optimize the exploitation of cohorts studies.
Lifebrain will be able to influence public health policy for brain, cognitive and mental health and improve clinical practice through stakeholder engagement activities.

Website & more info

More info: http://www.lifebrain.uio.no.